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Developing Body Awareness through Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) Experiences

Body awareness is one of the concepts introduced in our 100-Days of Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) Lab for Parents. According to Dr. Ambika Kameshwar (2006), body awareness is “an internal awareness of how one’ body parts are built and how they function in stillness and in movement.”

Thanks Kabir Vernal for creating this artwork to think about body awareness in stillness and in motion. Play is one way in which young children develop body awareness. Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) provides a structured and consistent way of developing body awareness.

Artwork by Kabir Vernal

The concept poster shared as a part of the 100-Day Lab is shown below. As mentioned in the poster, body awareness leads to greater ability to controls one’s movements.

Dr. Kameshwar also notes that when we become aware of the reactions of our body to certain stimuli, we can respond to varied stimuli in a better way. The concept of interoception or mindful body awareness is a foundation for learning. According to the interoception kit, body awareness is a precursor to postitive development and emotional regulation.

Our Journey

Since Ananth started Bharatanatyam, we have noticed an improvement in his body awareness, including becoming aware of the reaction of his body to certain stimuli. As an example, some years ago when a coach made him run, he got extremely upset because he associated a faster heartbeart with stress and anxiety. It was only after a few years of Bharatanatyam that he would dance continuously. Improved body awareness also improves communication. For example, Ananth started communicating that he was thirsty, tired etc. These basic expressions of how one feels translates into self-regulation and problem-solving. For example, Ananth expresses thoughts like “I am tired. I don’t want to study now. I want to go for a walk.”

An important points for parents to consider is that doing speech therapy without the foundations of body awareness and emotional regulation may not be effective. The child will acquire language and speak but will he or she be able to communicate what they are feeling, manage their emotions, and solve problems?

TAHD and Body Awareness

The five tools of TAHD (movement and dance, music and rhythme, storytelling, drama, and arfts and crafts) can be integrated to develop body awareness and build the foundations of emotional regulation and problem-solving. There are countless opportunities to teach body awareness through TAHD. For example, as Ananth was preparing for his role as Krishna in Krishna Dootham, one of the first lessons that Ms. Usha Sankaran taught was how to sit as Krishna. She guided him on foot placement, placement of hands, body posture etc. In the group sessions with Dr. Vaishnavi Poorna, there were many opportunities to practice body awareness. Actors have to think about where they are in space in relation to other characters on stage. They have to coordinate their movements with the movement of others on stage.

Body Awareness Lesson Video

In week 2, we shared a lesson video by Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh on body parts. Parents, teachers, and other caregivers can do this video with children.

Body Awareness – Movements of the Feet

The lesson of this week is the pada beda movement activity by Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh. Pada beda or movements of the feet in natya shastra are an important foundation of the dance. Body awareness can be raised through pada beda and movements of other parts such as shiro beda (movements of the head) and drishti beda (movement of the eyes).

Try the pada beda video below and raise awareness of the foot and its movements!

The video demonstrates five movements of the feet. The movements are performed to music.

Body Awareness – Facial Expressions

This year, we are also focusing more on facial expressions. As discussed in other posts, the TAHD approach to dance emphasizes facial expressions including smiling. Smiling and other facial expressions are integrated into aduvu teaching. Aduvus are structured movement patterns in Bharatanatyam. Even though the specific pieces learned by dancers change over time, aduvu practice is a part of the dance student’s daily practice routine! In the past, we have not seen emotional expressions being integrated with aduvu practice. For neurodivergent learners like Ananth, integrating emotional expressions in aduvu teaching is invaluable. Ongoing practice of emotional expressions through aduvus helps develop awareness of facial expressions that are an integral part of emotional regulation and communication.

The week 3 concept share by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar was on vacika abhinaya, one of the four forms of abhinaya according to Indian natya. As seen from this poster, vacika abhinaya is more than speech! It is the appropriate use of voice to communicate ideas, emotions, and needs. How does body awareness support vacika abhinaya?

Join us for the 100-Days of TAHD for Parents Lab here. Our goal is to encourage parents to consider theater arts as a tool for holistic development for life. Thanks to Dr. Ambika Kameshwar for sharing her TAHD work through our LIFESMART 100-Day Lab. We appreciate the efforts of Dr. Ambika Kameshwar and Dr. Vaishnavi Poorna in organizing the lab and providing us with excellent resources each week!

Ananth started learning Bharatanatyam in 2012. It is a decade since his Bharatanatyam journey began. Today, he is engaged extensively with theater arts through RASA India. Thanks to Dr. Ambika Kameshwar’s pioneering work, Ananth’s path forward with the arts and with life is clarifying and evolving beautifully. Thanks to Ananth’s TAHD dream team Dr. Ambika Kameswar, Dr. Vaishnavi Poorna, Ms. Usha Sankaran, and Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh for believing in Ananth and gently nudging his development in different ways. We are eagerly waiting to continue our journey in 2023!


Dr. Ambika Kameshwar. 2006 Theater Arts for Holistic Development. Ramana Sunritya Aaalaya Trust.

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Music , Rhythm and Autism

Music , Rhythm and Autism

While individuals with autism face many challenges including communication and repetitive “tick-like” behaviors, they often excel in music….Percussion activities are a big boon for kids/adults with autism in many ways 

It helps them to work with consistency in day to day tasks and chores as it has preliminary affect on concentration, attention ,focus, behavior and at times communication.

It improves rhythm ,dexterity and timing

“A drum circle is a rhythm-based event that utilizes a variety of hand drums and percussion instruments to empower a community of participants with the ability to create beautiful, spontaneous music.”

In addition, percussion activities can give non verbal children a voice and a means to express their emotion through the rhythm, tone, and volume of their drumming.

Sensory acceptance:

It is surely a sensory “rich” experience. It assists with reinforcing body awareness, touch, vision, and hearing skills. There have been reports of children becoming less sensitive to loud sounds after participating in such activities

Motor skills are enhanced.

Participants who are  playing percussion instruments  utilize eye/hand coordination, vestibular movement and visual perception. Motor skills emphasized include coordination, strength, and endurance as hands and arms are moving and the body is swaying to the rhythm.

Percussion is not only by means of tabla , drumming is the best to do this ….

My blog  is based on a research study By Robert Damm, PhD. …

Creative Efforts and Research Enthusiast – Heena Sahi